While I am hardly a charter member of the anti-digitist (I shoot about 70 percent
digital these days, mostly with a Canon EOS 20D, and I'm currently nursing
a bad case of 5D lust) I will confess to being a long-time Nikon nut. When I
acquired my first Nikon F in the early 1960s, I thought I had died and gone
to heaven, and there are at least half a dozen Nikon cameras on my "world's
greatest" list. I therefore had a lump in my throat and maybe a wee bit
of mist in my eye when I read Nikon's mid-January press release that it
was ceasing production and sale of all film cameras save for the flagship F6
and the pleasantly unassuming, entry-level, manual-focus FM10. While I commend
Nikon for soldiering on with two 35mm SLRs--long may they wind and click--it
surely marks the end of a noble era characterized by remarkable achievements,
both in technology and camera design.
Where does this all leave collectors, lovers, and users of Nikon 35mm SLRs?
Pretty much in the same boat they were before. It's no secret that the
prices of even some of the most esteemed and desirable 35mm models have taken
big hits in the wake of the digital dreadnaught, and, overall, 35mm SLR prices
have never been lower than they are right now. No, I am not anticipating a sudden
stampede by Nikon film SLR fanatics causing prices to skyrocket. However, I
believe prices will not erode significantly in the near term, and I do feel
that manual-focus Nikon SLRs in particular will continue to hold their present
value remarkably well. There are even a few models that will probably go up
in value due to increased demand among users and collectors, their relative
scarcity, and the fact that they're out of production. In short, if there's
a manual-focus Nikon SLR that you've always hankered for, the time to
snag a pristine example is now.
Exactly which manual-focus Nikon SLRs am I talking about? Well, all of them,
actually, but this month we'll concentrate on some of the best of the
enthusiast-aimed models, namely Nikkormats and the highly esteemed Nikon FM
series, which includes some of the nicest Nikons ever.
Deal Of The Month!
month's Deal of the Month was found at Adorama (www.adorama.com).
However, this model can also be found at comparable prices at other stores
that advertise in Shutterbug.
Canon A-1 With Canon
50mm f/1.8 FD Lens
$129.95 In E+ Condition
A truly incredible machine for its era (it's hard to believe
it debuted back in '78!) the robust, ruggedly handsome Canon
A-1 can still go toe-to-toe with current SLRs in terms of sheer
picture-taking performance and features. The first 35mm SLR with
electronic information processing, its six-mode exposure control
system offers Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Speed Priority,
plus stopped-down AE, Manual, and Autoflash. Other features include:
Cloth focal-plane shutter with electronically-timed speeds of
30-1/1000 sec, comprehensive digital LED viewfinder read-outs
displaying shutter speeds, apertures, manual metering indications,
and warning signals. You can even mount a Motor Drive MA or Power
Winder--a feature that made it the darling of pros who often
used it as a back-up camera. Noted for its rugged construction,
dependability, and solid feel, the Canon A-1 is a great user-collectible
for enthusiasts, and at its present bargain price it's likely
to hold its value better than most of the 35mm SLR breed.
The Nikkormat Saga
The Nikkormat that debuted in '65 was Nikon's first serious attempt
(after a series of lackluster fixed- and interchangeable-lens Nikkorexes, said
to be made by Mamiya) to provide amateur photographers with a durable, high-quality
35mm SLR body with an F-mount that was far less costly than the posh, professional
Nikon F. In this, they succeeded admirably, and the hefty, rugged, Spartan,
mechanically-based Nikkormats felt like Nikons, sold like hot cakes, and performed
well enough to be used by pros as back-up bodies.
A Nikon for the masses? Not exactly, but the Nikkormat FT was
a solid, honest machine that appealed to amateur enthusiasts and
established the identity of basic manual Nikons for decades to
come. Shown is the Japanese market Nikomat FT, identical except
for the nameplate.
The mechanical models FT ('65), FTN ('67), FT2 ('75), and
FT3 ('77) are all solid, rugged, fixed-prism, manual-everything SLRs incorporating
vertical metal focal-plane shutters, with speeds of 1-1/1000 sec plus B arrayed
on a shutter speed dial situated concentrically behind the lens mount--a
signature Nikkormat F feature. The FTN featured center-weighted metering and
worked with non-AI (Auto-Indexing) lenses. The FT2 had an ISO-type hot shoe
contact and sync terminal with built-in automatic M-X switchover, and the FT3
was basically an AI lens version of the FT2. Although sold under the Nikkormat
marquee, the Nikkormat EL ('72), winder-compatible ELW ('76), and
EL2 ('77) were all electronically-controlled shutter cameras based on
a different chassis. Despite their solidity, none have the visceral appeal of
the mechanical models, and the original EL was a known battery eater.
Don't mess with success! This Nikkormat FTN of 1967 was
virtually the same as the original best-selling FT except for
the addition of center-weighted (instead of averaging) metering
and semiautomatic aperture indexing.The model shown also sports
the Nikomat nameplate.
Prices for used mechanical Nikkormats vary wildly, but models in E (Excellent)
condition hold their value. At this writing, Adorama (www.adorama.com)
was offering two V-condition bodies at a mere $59 and $79 respectively, whereas
featured a pristine collector's FTN with mint 55mm f/2 Nikkor and case
for $479! KEH (www.keh.com)
was right in the middle, listing an E black FT body at $165, an E+ one in chrome
at $172, an E+ chrome FT2 at $205, and an E+ FT3 in black at $286. The Achilles'
heel of mechanical Nikkormats is the variable resistor in the metering circuit,
so be sure yours is working 'cause they're nearly impossible to
replace. Oh yeah, Nikkormats were called Nikomats in Japan and versions so marked
occasionally show up here. It is said that Nikon had to add the "r"
to satisfy Zeiss Ikon, who was miffed that "Nikomat" was too close
to "Ikomat," a name found on rollfilm classics and mediocre 35mm